Shane Ferro
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OBJECT LESSONS: Architecture & Design News

Chinese Censors Protect Unfortunate Phallic Architecture From Mockery

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Architect Zhou Qi, a professor at China’s Southeast University School of Architecture, designed the Beijing headquarters of Chinese national newspaper the People’s Daily with the hopes of evoking the traditional philosophy of “round sky, square earth.” Conceptually, the building is an elongated sphere that extends skyward from a rectangular base. From a certain angle, however, the addition of construction scaffolding to the very top of the supertall has had a very unfortunate result. (Let’s just come out and say it: Now it looks like an enormous penis.)

The People’s Daily office building. Photo: REX FEATURES via The Telegraph

The citizens below certainly aren’t blind to the resemblance, but the Chinese government has been quick to stifle any giggles that may come at its expense. Search queries for “People’s Daily” and “building” on Chinese social media site Weibo are reportedly coming up with the following message: “In accordance with relevant laws, regulations and policies, search results cannot be displayed,” the AFP reports. Uncoincidentally, the People’s Daily is the official paper of the government’s ruling party, and is consequently known to locals as Raping People Daily for its intentionally false reporting. Oh, the irony just kills.

A few zingers were able to circulate about the Internet before being blocked. “Of course the national mouthpiece should be imposing,” according to one Weibo user. “It seems the People’s Daily is going to rise up, there’s hope for the Chinese dream,” wrote another, in response to a new slogan of president Xi Jinping’s.

The quips are reminiscent of the clever nicknames the Chinese have recently bestowed on the other skyscrapers that have been altering the skyline: Rem Koolhaas’s Beijing CCTV tower is “The Big Underpants,” his Shenzhen stock exchange “The Mini-Skirt.” In Suzhou, the Scottish-designed Gate of the Orient is also called “The Big Underpants.” Shanghai boasts a “Riding Boot,” and before its phallic status, Qi’s design was described as a chamber pot.

Let there be no confusion. These nicknames were not bestowed lovingly. “Any design that can not be sold in foreign countries can come to China and sell at a good price,” observed one Chinese blogger. “Why does China look like the playground of foreign designers with laughable architecture ideas?” asked another. China’s efforts to bill itself as a destination for iconic architecture have resulted in ungainly, cacophonous urban landscapes that are spurring this backlash.

The People’s Daily headquarters is scheduled for completion in 2014.

— Janelle Zara

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